American Horror Story 3.02, “Boy Parts”

This week’s episode of American Horror Story explored themes of immortality and rebirth.

American Horror Story - CovenThe episode begins when Misty Day (Lily Rabe), previously seen burned alive, returns from the dead and takes a couple of alligator hunters to tasks on the banks of the swamp by bringing their kill back to life. We cut to the Robicheaux School where the girls meet for the morning and we get a little backstory on Queenie. (Hopefully we’ll soon get a last name and everything.) Queenie descends from Tituba, a mixed race witch of Caribbean descent and one of the first to be accused of witchcraft in Salem. This becomes important later.

During the meeting, a couple of cops come sniffing about what exactly happened at the frat party in the last episode. The cops seem to suspect that Madison and Zoe had something to do with the bus crash and also the death of the frat boy in the hospital. Zoe quickly falls to pieces and reveals everything about what happened at the frat party and that they are all witches. Cordelia tries, ineffectually, to claim that Zoe has some mental health issues, but Fiona comes in and uses her magic, brutally in one instance, to fix the situation. The cops won’t be bothering them again anytime. Fiona then reams Madison for her sloppiness with the bus crash and Zoe for her lack of spine. She tells the girls that the only thing they have to fear in the world is her.

Later, after many protestations from Zoe that Kyle did not take part in Madison’s assault and Madison thanking Zoe for taking care of the dude in the hospital, Madison decides she’s going to help Zoe find true love. They break into the morgue, stitch the best parts of the remains of the boys together (with Kyle’s head), and use dark magic to resurrect him. Unfortunately, Kyle comes back all kinds of messed up, and Misty pops up to help take care of him in her cabin deep in the swamp. Misty is overjoyed to learn that there are other witches out there (aside from, in her opinion, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac. You…have to see it).

Cordelia and her husband, Hank (Josh Hamilton), also mess with some dark magic, against Cordelia’s better judgment. They’re trying to conceive and have some wild sex complete with candles and snakes and blood. Did it work?

Meanwhile, we learn from Madame LaLaurie herself what happened to her. A group of Black folk, lead by Marie Laveau, hanged LaLaurie’s family before shoving the woman herself into a box to live in the ground for all eternity without the release of death, but with the overwhelming guilt and pain of the death of her daughters. Fiona figures on using LaLaurie as a bargaining ship to get Marie to share her secret of eternal youth, for Marie still walks this earth and runs a hair salon in New Orleans. Marie ain’t here for it, and they share some heated words before Fiona lights the place up and leaves with a snide remark. She later finds that LaLaurie escaped only to sit dejected in front of her old home, still unapologetic about her crimes. Fiona is now the one who isn’t here for it, and makes sure LaLaurie knows who’s in charge before they head back to the school.

I enjoyed this episode far more than last week’s episode, but it was not without its problems. I’m still recovering from the heaps of sexual and racial violence in the last episode; violence I still believe was largely gratuitous and exploitative in nature, respectively. I’m still not digging that, as of now, Zoe’s power is the power to kill through sexual intercourse. And, I’m still not pleased that Queenie still needs a last name and that Nan and Queenie don’t get the same extended subplots and screen time as Madison and Zoe.

I’m also not entirely sure if we’re supposed to find Zoe’s having created FrakenKyle romantic in some way? Certainly Ryan Murphy calls the subplot a “hopeful” one, even as he discusses some of the problems. I’ll admit that I laughed the entire way through that. My reaction was that of someone long past my teenage years thinking, “Goofy teenagers doing goofy things.” Instead of smoking joints in the basement, they’re creating monsters in the morgue.

What I really loved the face off between Marie and Fiona; Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange killed it yet again. Although it was a little ham-fisted (hey white writers), they explicitly discussed some of the racial dynamics and history at play as they discussed Tituba being made a slave by Fiona’s ancestors then being the first accused of witchcraft only to have much of her knowledge of magic appropriated by white witches. I also liked that, ostensibly, Fiona is in a position of power as a wealthy white woman and Marie not so much as a Black service workers. But, in terms of magic, I believe Marie is just as powerful, if not more than, Fiona.

The same acknowledgement of race and racism, this time in television, happened for a moment when Queenie discussed not knowing that Black people could even be witches because all of the representations she’d seen of witches where white women (representation matters, people!). I am really hoping Queenie will discover that she is of the same tribe as Marie Laveau and we’ll see how that affects her relationships with the other girls at the school.

Sidenote

Murphy recently did an interview with Entertainment Weekly recently that reveals some of his motivations this season. I’m very much over the “mythological creatures as metaphorical oppressed peoples” bit and especially when it comes from someone like Ryan Murphy, who walks the earth with a lot of advantages. I would love for him to put his money where his mouth is with regards to that and issues of representation and feature more women and people of color as writers and directors. I’m hoping this season marks a shift where we’ll see more and more people of color as main characters. Make it happen, Murphy!

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Marena

Marena recently earned her Master of Arts degree in Social Justice & Human Rights & primarily explores social justice issues in the production & consumption of popular mass media. You may find her creating fanworks, testing her hand-eye coordination with beadweaving, flailing over her fictional faves, reading everything from fanfic to theory texts, or watching low budget sci-fi. You can find her writing on Marena ni yukyats.

2 thoughts on “American Horror Story 3.02, “Boy Parts””

  1. I think there’s going to be some interesting things going on this season. What I already see:

    We have tension between Misty and Zoe, one as the embodiment of life and one as the embodiment of death (their contrasting powers) with at least two characters who will will be trapped in the push-pull. Kyle, who is dead-alive, and LaLaurie, who is alive forever and wants to die (her own version of dead-alive). And then there’s always the storyline about Cordelia wanting a baby (making life out of death magic).

    I’m not sure where Queenie is going to go. Her power is a direct reference to voodoo, and we’ve got Marie Laveau, and Tituba. I’m not sure she’s going to defect. She might be a bridge, since the whole purpose of the school is to provide sanctuary against outside forces. Will we see ‘mundane’ forces rallying against the Fiona and Laveau forces?

    I meant to get back to you about my comment last week about feminism and witches. I meant that the introduction of BC, which was largely embraced by feminists meant a more reliable way for women to control their fertility or avoid having children all together. There was also a branch of second wavers (mostly) who turned to political lesbianism to opt out of male dominated sexuality, reproduction and politics, purposefully choosing not to have children. So there’s the link.

    Of course, there’s also a long history of midwives having access to herbs and ‘potions’ to help induce miscarriage or prevent fertilization, so there’s that history as well.

    1. The themes of life, death, birth, re-birth and immortality came through strongly in this episode, and I’m interested to see where they’ll go with it. Specifically, I’m interested in how they’ll continue to explore the sub-themes of aging, beauty, vanity, and I’m also interested in the burgeoning relationship between Zoe and Misty. It didn’t escape me that Misty said something to the effect of, “You summoned me,” when she popped up, and it made me wonder if her life giving powers are a red herring, and she has a darker side to her.

      It would be interesting if Queenie became a bridge between the two camps, and given that one of the other themes hammered upon in these past couple of episodes has been one of survival. We know that those with supernatural powers are dwindling and under threat, so will they band together? I think (although I don’t know if the writers would be able to pull this off given that the vast majority of the creative input comes from white men) that aspect of it could be a fascinating exploration of “feminist” organizing and politics and some of the problems and potential. E.g., Black women and other WoC have been largely marginalized in mainstream feminist organizing and even in so-called intersectional spaces this has been the case. So, how do we build coalition? What would that take? Can we truly? Etc.

      Ah, okay, I thought these things might be what you were addressing, but I didn’t want to infer your point before replying. Fiona’s issues with fertility and her capabilities with potion making seems to speak to that as well. This is why I wish there were more women and ANY women of color working on the show because I believe women of color have had a somewhat different relationship to reproduction and fertility than white women, generally speaking, e.g. differential access to birth control and prenatal care, forced sterilization, fertility issues caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, characterization as parasitic for having children, and so forth. (Also, cognitively disabled women and poor women of any race have run into some of these issues as well). In that sense, when I think of these witches talking about their numbers dwindling, and knowing that Ryan Murphy thinks of them as metaphorical “oppressed minorities”, I think about the ways in which some women’s reproductive choices and, more specifically, their reproductive capabilities have been violently policed and so were not a matter of choice per se.

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